Recap: Graduate Student Workshop on Metacognition

Two female graduate students are sitting side by side looking at each other while working on a computer.

How do we, as instructors, help students to use reflection to deepen their own learning and connect with other students? Last week, Christina Michaud, Master Lecturer and Associate Director of ELL Writing in the CAS Writing Program, and Melanie Smith, Senior Lecturer in the CAS Writing Program, led a workshop for graduate students on “Using Metacognition in the Classroom to Increase Student Community and Learning,” in which they explained how simple metacognitive exercises can benefit both students and instructors without generating more grading.

Metacognition, which can be understood as “thinking about thinking”, allows students to grow as learners. Prompting students to reflect on why they are implementing a particular formula or strategy, rather than simply memorize how to do so, helps them to transfer knowledge to different contexts. Alternatively, having students articulate their anxieties, and inviting them to share those reflections with one another, can normalize struggle and thus potentially improve student wellbeing and community. As instructors, learning about student anxieties can inform our feedback and teaching.

Professors Smith and Michaud provided examples of how metacognition can be incorporated into the course in the form of low-stakes, ungraded exercises, such as learning journals or exam wrappers. For instance, asking students to take a few minutes to write what they would do to improve their work if they had one more day on the assignment, and why, helps them to develop their ability to think about their learning beyond the one assignment.

To learn more about the value and concrete applications of metacognition in the classroom, check out the CAS Writing Program’s website. Finally, thanks to Professors Michaud and Smith for sharing their expertise and giving us a chance to learn more about these practices!